Videogames are no longer the domain of teenagers. They haven’t been, in fact, for the best part of two decades. As a generation of one-time upstarts matures into mid-life adults – with careers, families and all else that comes as part of the package – we may well find that disposable income is on the rise. However, time is most certainly at a premium. 3 hour games are a blessing.
As I approach 20 years of working in the games industry, I look back at the literal thousands of games I’ve been blessed to review. I think about games such as Final Fantasy XIII, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Mass Effect 2 and Grand Theft Auto V. I think back over the tens of hours I invested in these titles. The time I spent to ensure I gave an honest, justified opinion to whomever may stumble upon my reviews. Then, I think about just how much games like this scare me today.
It’s not because they’re difficult, or that they have themes that my trigger me in some way. As someone who believes in playing games from all corners of the industry, I’m not offended by violence, sexual themes, bad language or any other controversy you could think of. No, it’s the investment that they demand that scares me. And not financially, but that of time.
I’m no longer in the position where I can spend 5+ hours a day, 5 days a week playing games. At least, not for fun. I’m lucky if I can play for five hours one day a week, truth be told. And so, as my backlog of RPGs and multiplayer-orientated battle passes grows, finding the confidence to begin a new title is incredibly difficult. There’s always the fear that I’ll crack it open, put in four-five hours, then won’t be able to play it again for a month, potentially ruining the experience as I forget everything that happened in that opening section.
A game came along a few years ago that changed my mind about what constitutes value. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons debuted on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 back in 2013. I remember sitting down to begin the game and prepare a review one Sunday afternoon. However, I quickly fell in love with the game. So much so, that I completed it in one sitting. One glorious five-hour sitting. I did not feel cheated. Didn’t feel as if the game wasn’t offering value for money. I felt that the game was perfectly formed, just as it was.
Two recent releases have followed this path, and immediately grabbed me. Both Stray and Bright Memory: Infinite have proven to be exceptional titles. Though very different, they both have campaigns of a very high quality. Both are hugely enjoyable, and both can be completed in around three hours. I’m sure I’m not alone in my belief that a game I can playthrough to completion is inherently more enjoyable than one I’m certain will be abandoned all too soon. And moreover, I’m sure there are many 30+ readers here that understand my issue entirely.
‘3 hour games’ don’t necessarily mean the end. Both Stray and Bright Memory: Infinite have completionist activities that will likely push players beyond the five-hour mark. However, the fact that I went into both being confident I could enjoy them through in one sitting – much like a movie – made them seem a more compelling offering than they might have done so otherwise. High quality experiences, however brief, remain high quality.
I’m not suggesting we should do away with 10+ hour campaigns. And certainly RPGs can’t be compressed so much as to make them comfortable for everybody. However, if the 3 hour games prove anything, it’s that duration shouldn’t be used as a metric of value for money. Would you rather have a fantastic two-hour long superhero movie, or a tedious four-hour long epic, just to get more bang for your buck?